Cultural Tourism

Produced by James Duesing, © 1998

Go to Cultural Tourism

Cultural Tourism is an animated web journal. It details a trip to the Headlands National Seashore. The site describes the recovered pastoral beauty of a former military installation now an environment of artists, plants, predators and prey. Contrasting this environment is the hedonism and clash of culture across the bay in San Francisco. Animated cycles do not illustrate the text but rather act as a counterpoint to the writing which is observational yet intimate without being confessional.

Description of Site and Content:

Cultural Tourism was developed during a three month stay at an abandoned military installation near San Francisco. A paradise of land and sea which began its conversion with single man bunkers to guard the San Francisco Bay. These military developments grew larger and larger to contain increasingly huge gun turrets and finally a Nike missile base. It had all been abandoned with the development of smart bombs and new warring technologies. Now an artists residency program was reclaiming some of the buildings and the environment of wind and fog was reclaiming others. I made this piece on a Pentium lap top in a room where the source of electricity was the end of an extension cord that came out of a hole in the wall. The room also had the only free and open phone line around. Sometimes when working the stereo would stop playing and the lap top would switch to battery power letting me know that the electric had stopped coming. Usually in a little while it would start again.

Strangely while being just across the bay from one of the world’s most sophisticated cities I felt like I was at a remote outpost . I developed this site as a way of describing the recovered pastoral beauty of a former military installation turned into an environment of artists, which at the same time was being reclaimed by plants, predators and prey. I was stuck that this wilderness was just across the bay from the hedonism and clash of culture in San Francisco. Cultures and ideologies lived so tightly compacted, that by traveling sometimes only a few blocks I felt I had been through a foreign country and upon leaving had entered another persons fetish. I constructed this site as a series of counter point journeys , contrasting the diverse forms of wild life.

In this environment of occasional electricity I considered what I could do as an electronic artist. I began deconstructing the idea of a personal web site while posting written entries of daily experiences. I tried to write observations that were intimate without being confessional. I began seeing the writing as an invitation for people who knew me (or didn’t know me and just visited the site) to participate in the experience rather than a retelling of my daily doings. I also started building 3-D computer models of environments that were abstracted counterpoints to the places I was going and the people I was meeting.

Since I did not have the fast internet connection I was used to in my studio, I became conscious of down load times and how the need for specialized plug-ins frequently clogged my line. I cursed any one who thought a background image was a design element worth the wait. I became committed to the idea of working with a stripped down technical aesthetic. This meant embracing as best I could an 8 bit GIF mentality in order to create a compromise between user ease, download time and animated images. Each animation is extremely short, ten to sixteen frames, but each is designed as a loop to create a sense of continuous activity. Users automatically download .gif animations while reading text so they do not have to step out of the experience. By the time they have finished the text even on slow machines, the animation is usually running. This drives the viewer to continue deeper into the experience.

The site is set up as a series of twenty journeys. You enter the site by clicking on the words Cultural Tourism. You are taken to a white page with a small animated icon and an image. On any white page you have the option of clicking on the icon on the center of the page and beginning a journey in a sequence that is not particularly chronological. Or you can click on the large image and see all animated icons for the twenty possible journeys. When you are on a journey the background is black. Once you have selected a journey you cannot go back in time(unless of course you use the software’s Back button.) The only option you are offered is a flashing red light which takes you to another passage and forward in time. The animations on each journey are related by technique and elements. Some Journeys are long, ten or more pages. Others are quite short, three or four pages. When you reach the end of a journey you are returned to a white page which displays all of the animated icons, in sequence, that came before the journey you have just ended. There is an icon in the center of the page which is a suggestion for the next place to go. When on the white page you can always choose the large image which will take you to the full menu of selections . When you reach the end of the final journey you are given a scrap book page with fragments of images from your trip.